Travel between South Africa's most cosmopolitan city and the unique semi-coastal wilderness of Addo Elephant National Park.
South Africa's most famous city is explored before traveling first to the Overberg and then on to the Garden Route, where the highlights of these areas unfold in the company of your guide. From the Garden Route, the tour travels north to Addo Elephant Park, where a few days of safari are enjoyed in the finest Big Five safari area in the southern part of South Africa.
Guests will be met on arrival at Cape Town International Airport or any other location of their choice in Cape Town, where a day is spent exploring one of the world's most beautiful cities. Table Mountain, arguably Africa's most famous natural landmark, is first on the agenda. From Table Mountain, one of the world's most impressive views can be enjoyed. We also visit the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The garden is home to 4 000 of the 18 000 species of flora in South Africa and creates a remarkable display. At the memorial to Cecil John Rhodes, sweeping views of the entire Cape Flats can be enjoyed. It is where we end an unforgettable day before traveling to the overnight accommodation.
The spectacular Chapman's Peak drive, cut into the 650m high Chapman's Peak, leads the tour through the town of Noordhoek to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. A botanical and scenic delight, the reserve is home to several antelope species and a great diversity of flowering plants and birds. A highlight is sure to be the walk to the edge of Cape Point, where the calming influence of the Indian Ocean meets the stormy waters of the Atlantic. This Cape, which has played a central role in the tales and legends of the ocean, was and remains an important landmark. We trace False Bay on the way back to Cape Town and include a visit to Boulders Beach, an attractive secluded haven that comprises a tumble of huge round rocks on a sandy shore. The boulders are ideal vantage points for observing the colony of mainland-based African penguins.
Located in one of the most picturesque valleys of the Cape, the town of Franschhoek owes its existence to the first French settlers who worked the Drakenstein Valley. Some time is devoted to exploring the town and its memorial to the French Huguenots, set in a lovely garden, before visiting three of the fine wine estates in the valley, renowned internationally for the exceptional quality of wines. All the noble cultivars and classic styles are on display, from superb whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, and Chenin Blanc to the rich reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. In the late afternoon, the tour returns to Cape Town.
We leave behind Cape Town and cross Sir Louwry's Pass before traversing South Africa's primary apple-producing region surrounding Grabouw. From here, we travel via Napier to the De Hoop Nature Reserve. De Hoop is a 34 000-hectare (84,000-acre) World Heritage Site, including a protected marine reserve stretching three miles to sea. Check-in is followed by lunch and relaxation before enjoying an afternoon game drive in this conservation area, offering spectacular views and potential encounters with the reserve's myriad wildlife, like eland, baboons, and ostriches, and rare species like the Cape mountain zebra and bontebok. In the late afternoon, we embark on an eco-boat trip on the De Hoop Vlei, a Ramsar wetland of international importance. A total of 260 species of birds have been spotted here.
This morning we enjoy an interpretive marine walk accompanied by a local guide. The activity is conducted at low tide. The group ascends a dune with glorious ocean views and an excellent vantage point from which to spot whales from June to November. From here, the focus is on the two intertidal zones and the marine life that exists here, ranging from limpets, sea cucumbers, and barnacles to sea urchins and red bait. The activity lasts between two and three hours. The tour then departs De Hoop and heads inland to Swellendam, set beneath the protection of the Lageberg Mountains. From Swellendam, the tour follows the national highway to Knysna. The late afternoon is spent leisurely at the Knysna Waterfront adjacent to your hotel.
After breakfast, the tour crosses the Knysna Lagoon by ferry to the Featherbed Nature Reserve. The reserve is a unique 150-ha private reserve encompassing the entire Western Head of Knysna with spectacular views across the lagoon and the ocean and the treacherous passage between the two, which claimed many a ship during Knysna's days as an exporter of timber. The reserve is one of South Africa's heritage sites and is home to two of the Garden Route's natural icons, namely the Knysna Loerie and the blue duiker, one of Africa's smallest antelope species. After lunch, your guide will accompany you to a few of the most prominent attractions in and around Knysna, notably Leisure Isle and the Eastern Head.
After an early breakfast, we head off in an easterly direction, stopping en route in the Tsitsikamma Forest at the Big Tree, a massive 800 y/o Yellowwood giant standing some 37 meters tall, and later the Storms River mouth, where the booming Indian Ocean breakers pound relentlessly against rocky shores. We take a short walk through the forest to the suspension bridge over the Storms River. Those who wish could hike to the top of the mountain, with panoramic views over the Indian Ocean. From Storms River, the road leads to the friendly city of Port Elizabeth, where we turn inland for about an hour to the Addo Elephant National Park. The late afternoon is devoted to a game drive in this Big Five reserve.
You'll enjoy daily game drives in the Addo Elephant National Park. The finer details, such as daily departure times, the length of game drives, and when and where meals are taken, will be communicated to you by your private guide once in the park. The park has proved a very successful conservation story since its inception. It is home to more than 450 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo, over 48 endangered black rhinos, and various antelope species. Lions, spotted hyenas, and cheetahs have also been reintroduced to the area. The expansion of the original park to the Woody Cape Nature Reserve means that not only does Addo contain five of South Africa's seven major vegetation zones, but it is also one of a few parks to house the so-called 'Big 7' - elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and the great white shark Bird Island is home to the world's largest breeding colony of gannets - about 120,000 birds - and also hosts the second largest breeding colony of African penguins. The focus is on interpretive game viewing, with your guide enhancing your understanding of the animals through their knowledge of the habits and behavior of the different species.
An early morning game drive is conducted. The last activity is followed by a late breakfast, after which you're transferred to Port Elizabeth airport for a flight to Cape Town, bringing a memorable South African holiday to an end.